Mr. Golightly, Chapter X

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Note: original spelling has been maintained. From the series: MR. GOLIGHTLY;





“ LET us gently retrace our steps,” the long-winded Elder observed, when his congregation thought he had just wound up for that occasion; and, at the risk of disappointing our readers, we must address them in the Elder’s words. The amiable hero of this history had been a tolerably pliant reed in the skilful hands of Mr. Pokyr. He had screwed up Mr. Samuel’s courage to that “sticking point” Lady Macbeth speaks of, and taught him to snap caps on a pistol at an alarming rate—all in the short space of twenty-four hours; and if Mr. Samuel Adolphus Golightly did not reach the soft turf behind the ditch at Newmarket an accomplished duellist, it was not his second’s fault.

It is, perhaps, not in the common order of things that a man should learn the whole art of duelling in the short space of one day, nor digest the knowledge he has acquired in one sleepless night: a great deal must depend upon the courage, nerve, and coolness of the combatant. Unfortunately, Mr. Golightly was well aware of this; and, with the thought, he bade goodbye for ever to such pluck, steadiness, and sang froid as he previously boasted. Many people—the writer of this biography among the number—will not be disposed to think the worse of him for this, under the special circumstances of the case; for, after all, fighting is not a Christian thing; and, as our hero’s facetious second observed, a few minutes before the encounter—

“ Perhaps, my dear Golightly, you’d rather eat Chutney potted, than—than pot him heated, by Jove?”

A very faint smile marked Mr. Samuel’s recognition of his friend’s reprehensible attempt at a joke.

The O’Higgins had before him a task even more difficult in the work of bringing Mr. Chutney “up to the scratch.” The Indian gentleman, forgetful of his valiant words, urged a variety of reasons against fighting himself; and it required all the natural and oily eloquence of the first-named gentleman to convince, calm, and reassure him. On the eventful morning, Mr. Chutney felt so ill, that his second had very hard work to persuade him to start. Mr. Chutney felt the most burning desire to fight; but he wished to put in an aegrolat that morning, and postpone the hostile meeting until he felt better fitted for the combat. He talked of a surgeon’s certificate; and was only finally persuaded to take his seat in the dogcart from Pratt’s on the assurance of The O’Higgins that after all, in all human probability, the ride to the Heath would turn out “ merely a matter of for-rm —arl glory and no risk, bedad; for that Golightly will never be there—you see if he will.”

It was plain Mr. Chutney devoutly hoped that his adversary would not turn up to time.

“ We shall have the ride all for nothing, then,” he urged.

“Not at arl, me dear sir,” returned The O’Higgins. “ If Golightly isn’t there, isn’t it just as good as shooting him, and better besides?”

“ But I don’t want to go twelve miles for nothing,” Chutney objected.

“ Certainly not—of course not.”

“ Could not we find out if he is gone?” he pleaded.

“ Well, it would not be the right thing exactly. We must go over and find out for ourselves.”

“ I don’t feel at all well,” said the principal. “ I hate being rattled about in a dogcart. It shakes me to pieces always.”

“ I’ll drive,” replied the second. “ You must not touch the reins. You are bound to keep your hand steady.”

“ Oh!” groaned the Indian, “I thought you said Golightly would not be there.”

“ It’s—it’s all Lombard-street to a Chaney orange he won’t I’d—I’d bet a hundred pounds to sixpence, he isn’t—now!” said The O’Higgins, glaring wildly at his poor little victim.

“ I’ve a great mind to take you,” he replied.

But on a moment’s reflection, feeling that the Captain’s hundred was spelled with three ciphers, and that in reality the wager would be sixpence to nothing at all, he did not accept the offer.

“ How do you know Golightly will not turn up?” he asked, abruptly.

“ Well,” said the Captain, turning the matter over in his mind, “ Pokyr hinted as much to me yesterday morning.”

“ I never take any notice of what Pokyr says,” retorted Chutney. “ Besides, he is sure to make Golightly go.”

“ One man can take a horse to the water,” urged the Captain, allegorically, “ but ten can’t make him drink.”

“ How do you mean?”

“ Why, I mean he’ll fire in the air, if he fires at all. That I do know.”

The dogcart being now in waiting, Mr. Chutney, having put on many wrappers, took his seat gloomily by the Captain’s side; and they drove off together.

“ What would the Club think of you, you know, if you didn’t show up, after everything that has been said?” the Captain observed, after they had driven some distance without a word being spoken on either side.

“ Confound the Club—they’ve none of them ever fought a duel,” replied Chutney, irritably.

“ Think of all you’ve said, though, on the subject,” said the Captain, in a soothing tone.

“ My views are—are considerably altered, O’Higgins.”

“ Bedad, it’s many a man I’ve winged,” observed the Captain, vaguely, by way of keeping up the conversation.

“ Where?”

“ In arl parts of me native countree. Leave an Irishman alone for picking a decent quarr’l, when the occasion presints itself,” said The O’Higgins, bravely.

“ I should like a glass of something,” said Chutney.

They were passing a roadside inn, just out of Cambridge.

Some time was lost in rapping up the people of the house, who were hardly astir yet.

After a glass of brandy and water, Mr. Chutney felt better. The Captain joined him for company’s sake.

“ That’s yourself, now,” he said, as his friend plucked up courage, when he found there were no recent marks of wheels on the road.

“ We're first, at all events,” he added.

“ I thought you said they would not come?”

“ So I did,” replied The O’Higgins,“ But if they do, sure you’ll behave like a man—and a Mutton Cutlet?”

“ Hang the Mutton Cutlet!” was the brief response.

Presently, however, Mr. Chutney’s spirits grew lighter. At Quy Church the Captain made the same dog Latin joke which has been recorded of Mr. Pokyr in our last chapter. “Quy Church stands in the fields,” and quite remote from the village.

“ A qui-et place enough if anything should happen to Mr. Golightly,” said the Captain.

“ I hate stupid puns,” said Chutney. “ Besides, ecclesia is not the word for the fabric of a church, and qui does not agree with it.”

“ Bedad! foighting does not agree with you, me boy,” the Captain thought, but wisely said nothing.

“ We’re first on the field, and that’s something,” he said, when, after an hour’s drive, they pulled up at the appointed rendezvous behind the ditch.

“ How long are we obliged to wait?” asked the principal, nervously.

“ Not more than an hour or two, at most.”

“ Bound to do it?”

“ In honour,” replied the second.

Mr. Chutney’s face fell.

They inspected the ground; and The I O’Higgins paced it in due form.

“ Stand with your back so,” said the Captain, “ is moy advice.”

“ Goodness!” said Chutney, cheering up suddenly, “ you’ve forgotten to bring any pistols. I left it to you, of course. We can’t—”

“ Pokyr will provide the weapons,” replied the Captain, calmly.

Mr. Chutney took a seat on the grassy bank behind him.

“ Stay—hark—h’sh!” cried the Captain. “ I think I hear wheels—they’re coming.”

“ No? ”

“ Yes! all right—here they come.”

“ I don’t hear anything,” said the principal, hoping almost against hope. “Now I do. Is it Pokyr?”

His doubts were speedily set at rest by the arrival of our hero and Mr. Pokyr in another dogcart.

“ The small pistols or the large ones?” said Mr. Pokyr, after he was safely out of the vehicle, producing two cases of weapons.

“ Small ones!” cried both the combatants, in a breath.

“ Stop, stop, gentlemen —we must settle these things,” said Pokyr, conferring with O’Higgins. “ Shall we use the large or the small, Captain? Both brace are certain death”—this remark was made in a voice both Mr. Samuel and Mr. Chutney could too plainly hear—“never knew either of them missfire.”

The ground was measured, the two gentlemen took up their positions. Behind Mr. Chutney was the wide-spreading Heath. Mr. Golightly turned his broad shoulders towards the belt of trees known as the Plantations. A few friends, who had come over unseen by the duellists, looked calmly on; and a stray donkey left his pasture on the Heath to gaze upon the unaccustomed scene.

As we said in our last chapter, the ground had been duly paced out, and the rivals held the instruments of vengeance in their hands, and were both of them ready to faint with terror.

“ ‘One’s frit and t’other daren’t,’ as they say,” Mr. Pokyr said to the Captain.

“ That’s about it, me boy,” was The O’Higgins’s answer.

“ Are we ready?”

“ We’re all ready on this side, I’ll go bail for that,” said the Captain.

Just as Mr. Pokyr was about to give the signal to fire, he suddenly exclaimed—-

“ One moment, gentlemen—I see strangers approaching!”

The strangers were those three active and intelligent members of the county constabulary, Officers 33, 55, and 99; who had been out on General Hall’s land, on the trail of a wicked young poacher who had long evaded the clutches of the law. They had searched all night in vain; and now here was game indeed. Nimbly they hopped over the broken railing which separated them by a feeble resistance from the field of battle; and before Mr. Samuel Adolphus Golightly had time to recollect where he was, or to ascertain who the unexpected arrivals were, he was safe in the custody of Constable 33. 55 and 99 gave chase to Mr. Chutney, who had very quickly taken to his heels; fearing in his heart that Pokyr would try to square the police, and after all the thing would go on much as if this lucky episode had never occurred. As fright, however, had rather weakened his knees, he was speedily caught by the aforesaid active and zealous members of the county force.

“ Give us your gun,” said 99, who could not altogether divest his mind of poaching. “What game are you arter?”

“ Ah! what’s your little game?” demanded 55, backing up his brother officer.

“ We—were—going to fight a duel,” gasped Chutney, relieved at being safe in custody.

“Oh, oh!” said the policemen, in a gruff duet. “Breach of Queen’s peace.”

“ Unlawful assembly for illegal purposes.”

Now, for the first time, Mr. Chutney saw the friends who had come to see him fight.

“ Fight a doo-el, eh?” said 99. “Give us your gun!” and he took the pistol from Mr. Chutney’s unresisting hand.

“ You’re our prisoner, sir—for the present, at all events.”

“ I’m—I’m rather glad to hear it.”

“ Now, raly, sir, you’re too flatterin’. You Cambridge gents are full of chaff; but you don’t catch us old birds with none on it.”

“ I’ll give you a sov apiece not to let me out of custody till the thing is all settled—”

“ By the magistrates at Newmarket—we sha'n’t, don’t you fear.”

“ No—by the other side. I don’t want to shoot the other gentleman. You see, he’s such a bad shot. I should be almost certain to kill him—I should indeed, and I don’t want to do it.”

“ I don’t think he would—would he, Grimes?” said 99, holding up the pistol for his brother officer’s inspection. “ This ’ere aint up to much, sir—it aint loaded.”

Mr. Chutney stood in blank amazement. It was true enough.

“ Then I’ve been made a perfect fool of!”

“ P’raps the stout young gen’elman's aint loaded either,” said Inspector Grimes, with a chuckle.

Mr. Chutney groaned deeply. How different would have been his conduct had he but known all before! How bold his front! But now—! He groaned again.

Meanwhile an explanation had taken place between Messrs. Pokyr, Golightly, and O’Higgins, and that active officer, Constable 33; and they appeared to have come to an understanding. Our hero was laughing merrily, and examining the barrel of his pistol in a way he would never have done if it had been loaded.

“ We are of opinion,” said Sergeant Grimes, after a short consultation with his brother officers, “ that shooting with unloaded pistols does not constitute a breach of the peace in the eye of the law.”

“ No,” said 55 and 99.

“ Therefore,” continued the sergeant, “gentlemen, you are at liberty.”

“ And at large,” said 99 and 55.

“ Let us shake hands,” said Mr. Samuel to his late opponent.

But poor little Chutney hung down his head in a ridiculous way. All his fire was gone.

“ Gentlemen,” said Mr. Pokyr, taking the rivals by the hand, “ you have done all that honour needeth. Therefore be friends once more. You met, and you would have fought —though, happily, without injury to each other’s limbs—if the police had not stopped you.”

“ Many fights are stopped by the police,” said Sergeant Grimes.

“ In this countree, perhaps,” growled The O’Higgins. “ But I know where no fights are stopped; and where, bedad, nobody could humbug Timothy Fitzgerald O’Higgins with empty pistols.”

This was a sore blow to the Captain, who believed firmly in the bona fides of the meeting—if it could be brought about.

“ You don’t want to fight, Captain?” said Pokyr.

“ Not I, bedad. You’ve stolen a march on me, me boy; and that’s the long and short of the matter. So, least said soonest mended. I’m doosid peckish.”

While this dialogue was going on between Pokyr and the Captain, Mr. Chutney and Mr. Golightly had shaken hands and made friends and acquaintances of each other at the same moment. Their various friends gathered round them; and even the donkey drew near to witness the general reconciliation.

“ Peckish!” cried Chutney, gaining spirits fast. “ I am nearly fainting.”

Tommy was very careful of the inner man at all times.

“ I am hungry,” said our hero, who played no indifferent knife and fork himself.

In the end, it was decided to breakfast at Newmarket. The dogcarts were remounted by some of the party, and room was found in the waggonette Mr. Calipee had driven over for the police, who were invited to partake of breakfast at the White Lion. Once there, everything else was soon drowned in the clatter of knives and forks and the business of eating.

“ Well,” said Mr. Pokyr, when he asked for the bill for the breakfast which the policemen had eaten, “ I should not have thought it possible they could have done it —that's all!”